Mother of 12-year-old who was tortured, brutalized by teens plans to fight early release request

Oct 2, 2007 07:55 PM EDT

By Janelle MacDonald

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- An Indiana woman convicted of brutally murdering a 12-year-old New Albany girl wants out of prison early. A hearing has been set for later this month on Melinda Loveless's request. WAVE 3 Investigator Janelle MacDonald has the latest on the case that shocked the community and has reaction to the new developments.

It doesn't get much more horrific than what happened to 12-year-old Shanda Sharer, who was kidnapped, brutally beaten, sexually attacked and then burned alive, reportedly over the jealousy of Melinda Loveless.

Shanda's mother, Jacque Vaught, says, "Melinda is, of the four girls, she is just evil."

In the 15 years since her daughter death, Vaught has spent a lot of time trying to make sure the four, then-teenaged girls convicted stay behind bars.

She says, "you just wish at some point that they'd take responsibility and just do that one little thing: just serve their sentence."

But in 15 years, two girls have already left prison -- Toni Lawrence was released in 2000 and Hope Rippey was released in 2006. Now ringleader Loveless is asking to get out before serving her 60-year sentence.

"If it wasn't for her, Shanda would still be alive," Vaught said. "She was the one that started it all .... she brutally murdered my child and when I say brutal, it was brutal. There was 10 hours of torture."

Mark Small, who represents Loveless, told us over the phone that she should be let out based on what he sees as problems with her conviction. Small said Loveless pled guilty, hoping to avoid the death penalty, which he says was never a possibility; and he hopes to prove the Indiana penal code she was charged under is unconstitutional.

In addition, he says her behavior in prison shows she's sorry for what she did.

Not so, says Vaught: "I've heard from people that have been in that prison. They seem to want to contact me and I've heard things about Melinda, and Melinda relishes in the fact that she is Shanda's murderer. She is very proud of that."

So Vaught plans to resume a role she's played a lot over the last 15 years. "I'm Shanda's voice. I always have been ever since she was killed."

She'll be at Loveless' hearing later this month and hopes to once again tell the judge why she thinks the now 31-year-old should stay in prison. "That's what I do. That's the only thing I can do. I wish I could do more."

Vaught says she believes Loveless is grasping at straws and thinks she'll stay behind bars.

Vaught also told us that out of the four girls who admitted being there when Shanda was killed, only Laurie Tackett has never tried for early release and Tackett is the only one Vaught feels is truly remorseful.

Online Reporter: Janelle MacDonald

Online Producer: Michael Dever